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Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility expresses our most sincere appreciation to everyone who attended, supported, volunteered for, and helped plan “Out of the Shadows: Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki” on Monday, August 6th, 2012. This year’s commemoration, which marked the 50th anniversary of organizations in Portland memorializing those killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was an enormous success, and we’ve received lots of positive feedback from attendees, presenters, performers and organizers alike. We could not have manifested this commemoration of the victims of the atomic bombings of these two Japanese cities without the assistance of our many dedicated supporters, and we very much appreciate all of your help!
The memorial event, held each year around the anniversaries of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima (on August 6th) and Nagasaki (on August 9th), serves to honor and remember the hundreds of thousands of victims of this horrible tragedy, this unforgettable failure of our species to promote peace and understanding instead of fear, hostility and violence. In the words of President Truman’s Chief of Staff Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy “The use of [the atomic bombs] at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan… My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages.” It is this barbaric darkness, this shadow of the threat of nuclear annihilation that even today is cast over humanity, that our annual commemoration event seeks to move us out of into a brighter, more secure, and more peaceful nuclear-free future.
We had an incredible turnout this year, with hundreds of guests in attendance for our hour-long program of speakers, poets, dancers, performance artists and musicians. We are thrilled that so many people joined together to hear about, and to take action for, a nuclear-free world, and the presence of so many inspires us in this critically important work. Many of those in attendance took immediate action by signing postcards to Oregon Senators Wyden and Merkley encouraging them support continued reductions in US nuclear arsenals, commit to a global ban on nuclear weapons testing, and to eliminate funding for unnecessary new nuclear weapons facilities and programs. We hope that everyone who attended learned something and were inspired to consider the impact of nuclear weapons on our world and, what is more, to proactively do something about it!
This year’s speakers gave potent testimonies on the realities of nuclear weapons, not only of their use in times of war but of the horrors related to their production. Washington State Poet Laureate Kathleen Flenniken spoke movingly of her experiences as a child, and later as an adult employee, at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, one of the most dangerously polluted places on Earth as a result of nuclear materials enrichment for the production of nuclear weapons (including the “Fat Man” weapon that murdered tens of thousands at Nagasaki). Kathleen shared a number of her powerful poems, and reminded us that the intended targets of nuclear weapons are not the only victims, but that the entire process of constructing nuclear weapons (from mining to enrichment and production) is detrimental to both the physical and psychological health for many of those involved, as well as their families.
Ailish Duff, the high school student winner of Oregon PSR’s 2012 Greenfield Peace Writing Contest, shared her poem They Are Here Today, a moving tribute to the many Americans who are underprivileged as a direct consequence of our nation’s addiction to war and disproportionate public spending on the military industry. Oregon PSR’s own Sean Tenney shared a number of practical, approachable steps that each of us can take to work towards a nuclear-free future, including informing ourselves regarding the processes and industries that produce nuclear weapons and discussing what we learn with our friends, families and peer groups, getting involved with anti-nuclear organizations and projects (including The Shadow Project), pressuring our elected representatives to end subsidies to and support for the nuclear arms industry, engaging the media to influence the public discourse, divesting any financial involvement with the companies that produce and finance these weapons, and refusing to be complacent or remain silent about the very real and present dangers posed by these weapons of mass murder and destruction.
Our sincere appreciation goes to all of our speakers and presenters, including the Reverend Dr. Lowell Greathouse of the United Methodist Church for providing an ecumenical invocation, and our special thanks go to Ronault “Polo” Catalani, who emceed the event with his usual grace, good humor and compassion. We also wish to thank our remarkable performers for entertaining, engaging, and eliciting powerful emotions for our attendees. Nishimonai Bon Odori, the traditional Japanese dance performance under the guidance of the great Sahomi Tachibana, was a somber, moving elegy to the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Alexandra “Saori” Erickson gave a poignant delivery of Itsumonandodemo, her soprano rendition of a song by Youmi Kimura. Chisao Hata’s interactive choreopoem, Remember My Face, combined poetry, dance, and music (by performers Yukiko Vossen and Peter Zisa) to remind our audience of the profoundly human costs of nuclear war. We also thank the Place of our Ancestors drum group of the Portland Area Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde for both opening and closing this year’s ceremony with traditional Native American drumming and chanting.
Once again, thanks so much to all of the individuals and organizations that made “Out of the Shadows: Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki” such a resounding success! Co-sponsoring organizations included Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Alliance for Democracy, American Friends Service Committee, American Iranian Friendship Council, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, First Unitarian Peace Action Committee, Greenpeace, Humanists of Greater Portland, Japanese Ancestral Society, Japanese Garden Society, KBOO Radio, Multnomah Monthly Meeting of Friends, No Nukes Northwest, Oregon Buddhist Temple, Oregon Hiroshima Club, Oregon Nikkei Endowment, Peace and Justice Works Iraq Affinity Group, Peace House, Portland JACL, Portland Japanese Garden, Portland Peaceful Response Coalition, Regional Arts and Culture Council, SGI-USA Buddhists, Sisters of the Road, Tom Dwyer Automotive, Vancouver for Peace, Veterans for Peace Chapter 72, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
For more information on our annual commemoration of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and actions that YOU can take towards a nuclear-free world, or to get involved in planning or volunteering for next year’s event, please contact Sean Tenney, Communications and Development Associate at Oregon PSR, at 503-274-2720. Thank you!
Watch video from the event (coming soon).
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